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Sex, Drugs, Rock n'Roll and BASEBALL

This is not just another book about the end of the sixties, but like the sixties, it’s a book you can argue about, cry over, question, laugh over, or wonder with. It’s not one you should ignore. In quick-moving pages, Elan Barnehama holds nothing back about the improbable perplexities of youth–or of the generation that characterized the sixties and later “grew up” so that so many of its cohorts succumbed to trimp and Q-Anon.

The title, Escape Route, nominally concerns a semi-secret obsession cooked up in the arching mind of the main character, the awkward, bumptious, ever questioning Zach, a very young teen. “What if they should come for the Jews again?” This wasn’t any more of an unreasonable question to ponder in 1969 than it is in 2022. Now, ponder that for a moment, especially if you are fully grown. But on our best days–or when other passions (welcome or not) fuel us with energy–such anxieties are submerged to a low rumble whether those anxieties stem from historical forces or are generated by tensions of everyday human cultural interactions.

Above everything, this book is a paean to a certain brand of humor, to the streets hangouts, and rhythms of New York City, to philosophy, and to the magic of youth–if you’re lucky enough to have a tight circle of friends who help you get by even if you are difficult, way too smart, anxious, and never know when to stop questioning. There’s sex, drugs, rock n’roll, and so much baseball–and innocence. There’s mathematics and the multifarious voices of FM disc jockeys, who late at night as you drift into sleep and you are only thirteen, can be ironically Godlike.

As much as this book is, deep down, a story about anxiety, it is also a story about stories. What kind of stories will help make us better? How can such stories, even if we knew them and how to tell them, be protected from being twisted, corrupted, or merely trivialized? Elan Barnehama is a master storyteller who keeps the action tight in about two hundred fast-moving pages. You’ll be glad you carry access to centuries of music on your phone as you read this. But you won’t need headphones to feel the emotion.

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